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Producers: We expect no major crop rotation changes for Iowa

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

JOHNSTON In a year of economic fears and uncertainty, Iowa’s corn farmers are heading into the 2009 planting season with steady business plans and a cautiously optimistic outlook.

That overview was provided Monday in a teleconference corn growers held with statewide ag reporters talking to three corn growers – Gary Edwards, of Anamosa, Iowa Corn Growers Association president; Julius Schaaf , of Randolph, past chairman of the Iowa Corn promotion Board; and Bruce Rohwer, of Paullina, an ICGA board member.

All said they plan to stay with their established crop rotation plans and will plant their usual mix of corn and soybean acres this spring.

Edwards, in Jones County, said that anhydrous ammonia applications were on track in East Central Iowa.

Most of the dry fertilizer has been applied in the region’s fields “and we are trying to finish off manure this week,” he said. He said that since he normally doesn’t start planting until the third week of April, he will be rolling the planter out in two weeks.

Schaaf said Fremont County has been enjoying “almost ideal weather in the Southwest corner of the state. “We’ve missed most of the moisture. Applying anhydrous should be completed this week. “We’ll be seeing planters running, as the temperatures go up,” Schaaf said.

But Rohwer, in O’Brien County, said the cool, wet weather has caused field prep work to lag in Iowa’s Northwest corner.

“Tilers are still finding frost, and manure haulers are still waiting until conditions warm up. “It’s still pretty wet around here,” Rohwer said.

When asked about their planting intentions this spring, the three men said the state of the economy has not forced them to make any major changes in their crop rotations. None of three expected many Iowa farmers to make significant alterations to their crop rotations.

They are, however, taking steps to control input costs, especially since last year’s high fertilizer prices have not declined as much as growers hoped they would.

To adjust, Edwards said he continues to do stalk and soil testing to assure that the potassium and phosphorus in his soils are in balance. Schaaf and Rohwer said that by grid-mapping and using global positioning system steering, they are getting fertilizer in the amounts that are needed, where they are needed in each field.

Schaaf said he had an average savings of 10 pounds of nitrogen less per acre using precision ag technology.

All three said they are not overly concerned about the economy in general affecting agriculture, but they have taken steps in marketing, such as buying put options and locking up their base prices, as hedges against another rapid commodity grains price drop.

“Ag has it’s own cycle that is separate from the general economy,” Edwards said. “Interest rates are down because of the economy, but at some point I expect interest rates will go back up like in the 1980s.”

In order to better weather the economic slowdown, Edwards says he has restructured debt to lock in a long term, fixed interest rate. Rohwer said he’s been “a little slower with machinery purchases to keep a stronger cash position.” All three said they’ve experienced no problems with accessing bank funds to put in this year’s crop. There is also little concern among them that there will be plenty of fertilizer available across the state.

If there is a concern for the growing year, it’s whether the carryover corn stocks will be sold to foreign buyers before the 2009 crop is harvested. “We have to sell off the surplus,” Rohwer said.

An area of remaining uncertainty is this year’s sign-up to participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture farm programs. Edwards, Schaaf and Rohwer all said they see the new farm bill’s Average Crop Revenue Election program as a good choice and are urging friends and neighbors to use on-line calculators to see how they can add it to their risk management toolboxes.

Many farmers find that crop marketing involves some of their most difficult decisions, according to Schaaf, who said ACRE may bring them some peace of mind by providing a price floor.

The trio said they foresee that agriculture will prop up the state’s economy in the near future “as long as people need to eat,” Schaaf said, “and if we can keep the renewable fuels moving forward.”

Contact Larry Kershner by e-mail at editor@farm-news.com or call (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453.

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